Saturday, September 15, 2012

Yamamotoyama teas review

I have heard tea being compared to wine. One aspect of the comparison is all too true: premium teas can go way beyond what normal people are willing to pay, much the same way as in some wine bottles. Wouldn't it be wonderful to get readily available great tea for low prices?

The Yamamotoyama brand of teas grants this wish. If you can look past the pre-packaging of their products, you find in their teas very high value. My first acquaintance with them was with their jasmine tea teabags some years ago, and have been a fan ever since. The flavor in that case is very pleasant and can be very intense if you oversteep it. That is not a problem because it allows you to stretch it over many cups; I can get five 16 oz. cups out of just one teabag.

Another great tea I have found from them is their hojicha roasted green tea. This comes in loose leaf form. Even though I bought the cheapest family pack I got a very drinkable tea. The flavor can be intense to the point of unpleasantness if you oversteep it or if you use too much of it, but with just a bit of restraint you can get excellent results. To my palate it tastes just like the seaweed used for sushi making; if you're anything like me, you might not want to compound the flavor by having both at the same time. I have also found that it leaves my mind fresh and that it can be had an hour before bedtime with no ill effect on my sleep.

In the same family pack category there is also the genmai, which is green tea with brown rice. I skipped it the first time I saw it in the store shelves not knowing what it was about, but in the interim I listened to a review of it in that Tea Lover's Room podcast and decided to try it out. The podcast's host, the Tea Lover Chic, didn't like the tea blend that much (I believe that it was not Yamamotoyama), but that didn't deter me; in fact, I so trusted the brand by now, that I went on. The results were wonderful! I found this tea even better than the aforementioned hojicha. Only one word can I use to describe its taste: toasted. I can add that it is very, very pleasantly so. I do not know what device of ingenuity they used to get to this Goldilocks flavor, but they nailed it precisely. In my palate, this flavor does overpower, or more accurately, cloak, the grassiness of the green tea; for me this is not a bad result. The actual rice flavor undertone stayed low and did not become unpleasant, even after prolonged steeping. I found that this one needs about the double of leaf as the hojicha to reach the same brew strength and that it doesn't retain enough flavor for re-steeping.

Although I am not too much a green tea fan, the pure sencha is also commendable. Once it has cooled enough to drink, I get the taste of something akin to a rich vegetable broth. I find that I have to watch this one more closely than the others, because it can easily get bitter if time runs away from me. About 4 to 4 1/2 min. of infusion does the trick. A second steeping can be pulled off, but all the good  flavor from the first go falls down to about one fourth and the bitterness now shows, so I do not recommend it. Dust or fannings that fall through the tea basket's mesh are something to watch for because, for, if they remain in the teapot, they can still make the brew bitter after a while.

All of these teas are very cheap in price too. 7 ounces or about 200 g of loose leaf can be bought for about $4-$5 which to me, it's a steal. This does not mean that you have to stock up when given the chance. It is so readily available, that there is no reason to buy more than one packet at a time of the ones you like or wish to taste.

I am sorry to see that they do not have oolong in loose leaf, as I would like to taste it from them, though they do have it in teabags. There appears also to be not one but two lines of higher grade offerings, especially of the sencha, at higher prices. These I have not tasted as of yet. The family packs easily  score  on my uncouth taste buds. Finally, it appears that also there is matcha from this company. Since it looks that it is too much of a bother to prepare, I have skipped it. This is not to mean that I will not take a look into them if given the chance. If so, I'll let you know.

The Yamamotoyama teas are the best value that I have found so far.


Post a Comment